Primates have forward-facing eyes on the front of the skull; binocular vision allows accurate distance perception, useful for the brachiating ancestors of humans. There is a bony ridge above the eye sockets; this ridge reinforces weaker bones in the face which are put under strain during chewing. Strepsirrhines have a postorbital bar, a bone which runs around the eye socket, to protect their eyes; in contrast, the higher primates, haplorrhines, have evolved fully enclosed sockets.
The primate skull has a large domed cranium which is particularly prominent in anthropoids. The cranium protects the large brain, a distinguishing characteristic of this group. The endocranial volume (the volume within the skull) is three times greater in humans than in the greatest non-human primate, reflecting a larger brain size. The mean endocranial volume is 1201 cubic centimeters in humans, 469 cm3 in gorillas, 400 cm3 in chimpanzees and 397 cm3 in orangutans. The primary evolutionary trend of primates has been the elaboration of the brain, in particular the neocortex (a part of the cerebral cortex), which is involved with sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and, in humans, language. While other mammals rely heavily on their sense of smell, the arboreal life of primates has led to a tactile, visually dominant sensory system, a reduction in the olfactory region of the brain and increasingly complex social behavior.